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- Good evening. My name is John Dozier, and I'm the Institute Community and Equity Officer here at MIT. I'm joining you from Columbia, South Carolina. It is comforting to know that there are many of you from different parts of the world coming together in the embrace of community. Thank you for being here. We're here in the wake of the recent and tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor to mourn the lives and reflect as an institute community. We are also here to feel our connections to each other in our global community strengthening and deepening in this moment. We will hear from members of the MIT community who in the time of their own processing of all that's going on, have graciously offered to share their heartfelt reflections. The chat function is provided for community members to share your grief, anger, dismay, compassion, love and support for one another. I simply ask that we remain respectful as we are a community made up of people with varying ways that we experience the world and varying ways that the world experiences us. During these troubling times, that are also complicated by physical distancing, I ask that you lean on your community. Reach out to your friends, mentors, advisors, colleagues and professors. If you're feeling overwhelmed, there are community resources available. The link to those resources have been shared in the comments section. And now, I turn it over to our president, Rafael Reif.
- Thank you, John. I'm deeply honored and humbled to be asked to speak today. In the face of tragedy, it is always important to come together. And coming together has never felt more important than now when we must be so far apart. I wish more than anything that I could be in person, with all of you. And I wish especially that you could be in person with each other. Because it may be the deepest human comfort in time of suffering to know that we are not alone. We've come together now because we know and we insist that black lives matter. The black lives are worthy and complete and inspiring. That every black person is unique and beautifully human, and that every black person of every age, everywhere, deserves dignity, and decency, and respect. And of course we come together because we know that these truths and the basic humanity of people of color are violated in our nation every day. Last week, the example that shocked the nation was the brutal killing of George Floyd. But so many have suffered before him over weeks and decades and centuries. Our nation is in terrible trouble and part of the trouble is the systemic racism that is destroying us from the inside. A society that tolerates official brutality, thereby, of course, encourages it. If we hope to live in a society that is better than its worst impulses, we must use this awful moment to drive and accelerate positive change. We must begin by insisting in full accountability for the officers involved in killing Mr. Floyd. We need to make clear to anyone who doubts it, that the rage and anguish unleashed by his murder are deeply justified. We need to support the current protests, which are overwhelmingly filled with peaceful people, begging for justice and peace and to address systemic racism in policing and criminal justice. We must press for systemic reform. I hope we can join together in doing these outward things. But we also have work to do closer to home. All of us who can count on the advantages of education, money and power, and even safety in our homes and neighborhoods, all of us with those advantages benefit every day from a society with a racist history and a racist present. And MIT is part of that society. This is our community, I believe it is a wonderful community, but it is our responsibility to make it better. So it is more important than ever that we accelerate the efforts already underway with the leadership of our ICEO, John Dozier to develop a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion. So that as a community, we can live up to our highest ideals. I have enormous faith in and love for the MIT community. In our online graduation celebration last week, I was overwhelmed by the images of our all familiar life together and of the incredible beauty of all those faces. Faces of every complexion, your faces on campus, working and playing and thinking and making together. It is difficult to face this moment in our forced separation without even the consolation of being able to embrace or to wipe each other's tears. To those of you who are African American, or of African descent, I know that I cannot know what you're feeling. But I can stand with you, I do stand with you and I'm certain that the members of the MIT community, all of them, stand with you too. Well mine is not the voice that more needs to be heard today. So let's turn now to our elected student leaders.
- Hello, everyone. My name is Danielle Geathers and I'm the president of The Undergraduate Association, also known as the UA. On behalf of the UA, I wanna thank all of you for attending this vigil. I also want to thank the Institute for providing this space, for us all to grieve as a community. As a black woman, my heart is heavy. Heavy, not only because of the persistent racist attacks on black lives, which are exacerbated by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 but my heart is further burdened with the abject pain that accompanies the prevalent normalcy surrounding black death, and the vulnerability of black lives. Tonight, our MIT community gathers together to mourn the brutal death of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The most recent examples of murders with which we are all too familiar, contributing to the growing disillusionment of justice. The pattern of these murders dates back centuries, even before my grandfather was born. Yet my heart remains heavy with the generational pain that belies our presence in the 21st century. We are suffering from a multi-generational fracture, the bone was never properly set, and substantial healing never occurred. Today, we see the latest inflammation of that initial injury, a visible display of a prolonged injustice which has lingered beneath the surface since before our country's founding, a foundational part of American history. As an institute, MIT opened its doors to black students early on. Nevertheless, large numbers did not come until the past half century. Even today, many black students don't feel fully supported by the Institute. We cannot ignore the systems in place perpetuating this feeling. An overt act of hate is simply one manifestation of racism. We cannot fully denounce hate but we must be vigilantly aware of its cousins, privilege, ignorance and apathy. We must improve our ability to be a place of opportunity and to reverse the existential threats that confront all of us. As Angela Davis noted, "Now more than ever, "it is imperative that we cultivate a culture "of anti-racism." Race neutral policies have proven severely inadequate. We should all listen to the strong and inspiring members of our MIT community tonight. These experiences can inform our collective action for a more inclusive MIT. Thank you.
- [John] Now we'll hear from Madeleine Sutherland.
- Dear friends I am Madeleine Sutherland, Graduate Student Council President. I am sorry to have to address you under these painful circumstances when bigotry and injustice that plagued our past continues to ravage through our today. We are gathered to mourn the recent murders of Black Lives including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and many others. And to join the nationwide call for not one more. In the face of such reckless hate and crime so grotesque, it's hard to find words for them. Words feel profoundly inadequate. These tragedies have affected so many of us in different ways. To the black community at MIT and to all my colleagues who are hurting, I offer my friendship, support and solidarity. It is important in times like this to remind everyone of the forms of support available to you to heal from all of these events. For example, MIT Mental Health is holding appointments via Telehealth. Graduate students can contact GAIN and GradSupport. Staff members can contact MyLife Services for support. As you go out into the world and fight against injustice, please remember to take care of yourselves too. Your well-being matters, and you're no help to anyone burned out. Talk to your friends, do things that make you joyful. Also, like one sign above or more like band aids, we need to address the underlying problem. There comes a time when we have to call evil by its name. The anti-black racism plaguing this country and claiming so many lives is one such time. As a person, I'm grieved and angry that some of my colleagues, neighbors and friends are still not only being made to feel unwelcome but having to fear for their lives when out in public. In particular, to my non black colleagues, it is important to listen to and believe our neighbors who have been telling us about racism and police brutality for years. It shouldn't take this very public murder for us to pay attention. Dr. King wrote in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", "The time is always ripe to do right." And he warned us that without are actively working to bring about justice, "Time itself becomes an ally "to the forces of social stagnation." And he wrote that 57 years ago. Yet now, we find ourselves needing to loudly affirm, black lives matter. Because some people and institutions have repeatedly acted otherwise. We must call for not one more, because a single life loss to racism is infinitely too many. So how can we respond to such appalling crimes and their tremendous effect on our friends and neighbors? As a community, we can move from being non-racist to actively explicitly anti-racist. That starts with self education on anti-racist practices and listening to the experiences of people of color. These learning stereotypes that you may have learned growing up, or out in the world, it means actively confronting racism and bigotry when you see it, when systems are not equitable and advocate for change. In the era of physical distancing, we've learned that being part of the MIT community isn't about living in the Boston area, or being on MIT's payroll. I believe what it really means is that our current struggles against anti-blackness, anti-Asian racism, sexism, and all other forms of bigotry are interdependent. Thus, we have to learn what it really means to hold each other up. If you are not sure where to start, reach out to your friends and colleagues who may be struggling right now and ask, "How are you doing and what can I do "to support you right now?" Have conversations in your lab or department about how to confront racism and actively bring about equity. My commitment as GSE president is to struggle alongside you in the days to come, showing up wherever I'm needed and advocating to make MIT more equitable, and to see our vision for a truly equitable MIT that is welcoming to all brought to pass. Thank you.
- Good afternoon, everyone. My name is DiOnetta Jones Crayton, Associate Dean and Director of the MIT Office of Minority Education. And I'm also an Associate Minister at Morningstar Baptist Church here in the Boston Area. We are in the middle of a crisis. And I think that we can all agree that this goes far beyond the threat posed by COVID-19. The charge I have today is to offer some remarks, some words of encouragement, if you will, and to lead us into prayer and a moment of silence. Please allow me to share some very powerful personal thoughts with you as part of my remarks. I don't consider myself to be a radical activist. In fact, throughout my life and career, I believe that God has always called me to serve, to lead and influence change from within systems and institutions, rather than from the outside. I negotiate and fight the good fight at the boardroom table. I meet with key leaders, I bring advocacy groups together, I help develop programs and services that address inequities. I speak at public forums, I stand firm in my convictions and I will unwaveringly speak truth to power. Yet, for a very long time, I secretly felt that I was not the right kind of activist. For many years, I believed that those courageous sisters and brothers those brave enough to lead protests, those brave enough to fight for what is right, in radical and even disruptive ways. Those who are willing to sacrifice all for what they believed was right even to the point of death, I believe that they were and are the true warriors, the fearless. And there is enough evidence based on the lives of civil and human rights activists, past and present, to suggest that all of this is true. But today I have a different worldview than I did in my 30s, in this regard. I have a heightened awareness. Today I know and I understand that both approaches, all approaches are needed to influence positive change. We can all be warriors, we can all be drum majors for justice in our own spaces, in our own spheres of influence. We need those called to serve and change systems from within and we also need those called to shake the walls, the ceilings and the very foundations of oppressive policies and systems from without. We need both. We needed Martin and Malcolm, we need Jesse and Al, we needed President Kennedy and we still need President Barack Obama. We needed Nelson Mandela and Petey Greene. We needed Shirley Chisholm and we still need Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson. We needed Angela Davis and we need folks like Ava DuVernay and we still need those three powerful women who started the Black Lives Matter movement. Today, we need everyone who says they care not just to care, but to do their part to fight the injustices that threaten to destroy us all, that threaten to destroy people who look like me. So what am I saying here? I'm saying that it's time for all of us to gain a heightened awareness. And more importantly, it's time for each of us to stand up and walk in our calling. Because no matter who you are, or where you are, if you say you care about the injustices in this nation, and in this world, you have a role to play. You don't have to do what I do, I don't have to do what you do, but we all have to do something. See justice anywhere is still a threat to justice everywhere. And whatever affects one directly still affects us all, indirectly. As a woman of color, and as a black woman, specifically, I am scared for every black man, woman and child. I fear for the lives of people of color. And even as an administrator at MIT, I'm afraid for our students sometimes. I sincerely desire to take care of and protect every single one of our students, not just from the outside world, but also from some of the inequities they may face inside our hallowed halls of MIT. Yet I believe there's still hope. As a woman of faith, I still have hope. On July 13th 2016, some of you will remember that I spoke to the MIT community in a forum much like this on a day, much like today. And just four years later, I am sitting here on a Zoom call, beseeching all of us to do our parts to end this injustice, to stop the violence against black men and women, and all marginalized populations. MIT, we have to do our part, we must. Now is the acceptable time and today is the day of salvation. So as we bow our heads and humble our hearts and go into a word of prayer, we ask for God to compel our hearts to act. Dear God, we are hurting, we are angry, we are numb, we are tired. Ease our pain, soothe our weary souls and give us the spirit of resilience. Transform the minds of those who live with hate in their hearts, and embolden those who walk in love to use their power and their privilege for the good of all humanity. Dear God, we are tired but we will not give up. We still refuse to believe that this nation is incapable of rising above its current state. We can have peace, we will have freedom. So call on all of us, call each and every person under the sound of my voice to walk in their purpose. Remind us that we must all be willing to do our part. Let no one sit idly by while murder happens in our streets. Instead, let us all rise up unafraid, let us rise up in spite of the ache that is inside of us for we are hard pressed on every side but we are not crushed. We are perplexed but we are not in despair. We may be persecuted but we are not abandoned and we may be struck down but we are not destroyed and we are not going anywhere. So, Lord, pick us up, wipe us off, mend our hearts. Join us together in unity and love. Heal our land, dear God, so that one day there will truly be liberty and justice for all. Please join me in a moment of silence as we remember George Floyd, we remember Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant. We remember Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, Sandra Bland. We remember Walter Scott, Terence Crutcher, we remember them and so many others who lost their lives to senseless violence. We remember so we do not forget, and we honor them with this moment of silence. MIT, now is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation. What will you do to help save us all? Because believe me, we all need saving. I love you all, God bless you and thank you.
- Thank you DiOnetta. As I mentioned earlier, I'm located in Columbia, South Carolina. In fact, I was born and raised in the home that I'm in right now, a home in which our children are the fifth generation of my family to be raised. Growing up in this context, has given me a great appreciation for history, certainly my own family history, which itself is marked with tremendous struggle and relative privilege. But also the history of my home state in the southeast more broadly, over the decades, much of which remains untold. In fact, it was on February 15th 1947, in Greenville, South Carolina, a white cab driver named Thomas Brown, was robbed and stabbed to death. The sheriff reported that muddy footprints at the crime scene led them to the house of Willie Earl, an African American man. The house was about a mile away. Based on circumstantial evidence, Mr. Earl was arrested at his mother's house the next day and taken to the county jail. That evening, a mob went to the jail and took him without resistance from the jailer, beat, stabbed and shot him to death. More than 150 suspects were questioned and 31 were charged with the crime. Many of the men signed confessions and some implicated the mob's leader as well as the person who shot the killer. On May 21st of that same year, a jury acquitted all defendants on all counts. Fast forward to December 2nd, 1975, in Montgomery, Alabama, Bernard Whitehurst Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer who said that he thought Whitehurst was the suspect in the robbery of a neighborhood grocery store. Police officers planted a gun near him to ensure that the official narrative would be self defense. However, that narrative was disputed by other officers at the scene. There was no autopsy, Mr. Whitehurst's body was quickly embalmed before his family was contacted. Six months later, an investigation by the local newspaper and the local attorney led the body to being exumed and an autopsy being performed, which showed that Mr. Whitehurst had been shot in the back. Eight police officers were forced to resign or were terminated. However, no one was convicted of a crime. Fast forward again to March 13th, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police officers who entered her apartment while serving a no-knock warrant. The warrant stemmed from an investigation centered on two people who were already in police custody and suspected of selling drugs from a house that was more than 10 miles away from where she lived. One of the people in custody had a prior relationship with Miss Taylor. The search warrant included her residence because it was suspected of receiving drugs and because her car was registered and seen parked, on several occasions in front of the suspect's house. However, no drugs were found in her apartment. I contrast these horrific incidents against the June 17th, 2015 mass murder of nine black people during a Bible study at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Video footage identified Dylann Roof, a white male. The following morning he was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina. When arrested, he wasn't even placed on the ground rather, while in custody, he complained about being hungry, and the officers took him to Burger King and bought him a meal. Our history is replete with examples like the ones that I've shared, including the more recent killings of Tony McDade of Tallahassee, Florida, George Floyd of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery from Glen County, Georgia. What has happened is not simply the results of a few bad people doing bad things. Rather, it speaks to the systemic dehumanizing and undervaluing of black lives, born out of slavery, reinforced by Jim Crow law and promoted even today by media stereotypes. I'm here as a black man, son, husband, and a father who is in deep pain from watching history repeat itself over and over again. I'm a black man who lives in deep concern and fear that my education and whatever privilege that I may have for being so deeply connected to my own family history may not be enough to stop me or any member of my extended family, friends or members of the community that raised me from having a similar fate. I'm also here as an active member of my community and an administrator who understands that while we cannot legislate love, we can and must legislate the hateful dehumanizing actions of those who are unwilling to check their biases. I stand in support of peaceful protesters insisting on accountability in the recent killings. And although today, we're here to grieve, I also stand with our institute leadership, students, staff, postdocs, and faculty prepared for deeper and sustained strategic action to accelerate our community toward a more inclusive, equitable and just future.
- Thank you for that, John. And my name is Corban, I'm a third year PhD student in Bioengineering. And this isn't part of what I planned to say but John mentioned being a father. And one of my brothers in the faith that I was talking to yesterday was telling me that his daughter, six years old, heard about what happened in the news, community conversation. She was asking about what is racism? What does it mean? And the parents told her. And the next day he asked his daughter, "What was your favorite thing? "What was the thing that made you happy today?" And she says, "That you came home safe." No six-year-old should have to be concerned for the rest of her life, about the safety and life of her father, because of the color of his skin. So when we talk about injustice, it's not just system, it's not just incident, is not just a video. It's children, it's lives, it's people. It's a lifetime of trauma and mindset that we have to adapt to. And so there's a tendency to distance ourselves from these events going on in the country. There's the news over here and then there's our personal lives over here. However, today in many days for black folks that separation is not there. The things we've see in a video are on the continuum of our lived experience. And as hard as it is to admit, the modern day lynching of George Floyd is on the continuum of our experiences with inequities in education, representation in the student body and faculty of MIT. As hard as it is to admit, the protests on the streets of more than 140 cities across America. And they're documented sabotage by incendiary groups is on the continuum of the Black History Month installation in lobby seven in 2019 and it's desecration with symbols of hate. In the same way that survivors of assault can be triggered by seeing their perpetrator, black people we're triggered and traumatized recalling the ongoing assault, devaluation and death whenever we see our perpetrator, racism in all of its many forms. So I'm gonna do two short poems. This first poem is an email that was sent on February 21st 2020, to members of the MIT Residential Floor Community to advertise a party. The email repeated the phrase 'average black male, around five foot six wearing a blue backpack'. Nine times jokingly referencing a police description of a suspected dormant shooter. Now though an apology was made for black folks on campus, this was unfortunately another example of how we were not welcome, triggered in trauma. In this poem, I replaced each instance of the phrase which I'll show in bold, 'average black male, five foot six wearing a blue backpack' to shape a narrative about the struggle for inclusivity and security of black students on campus. I speak out of a love for our community and a place that I call to action for the flourishing of all. Thank you for listening. "On-Campus Security". You're walking in the halls. There's no one around and the lights are out. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot it, racism. It's following you about zero feet back. It gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint. It's gaining on you, concealed as an honest mistake an unvetted email. You're looking for your room. But you've locked yourself out, it's almost upon you now and you can see there's its face on its face. My God, its face is everywhere running for your life. From the empty promise of diversity and inclusion. It's louder than the pipes. You're not welcome here. Lurking in the shadows, recurrent door surfer sloshing from the streets of America onto the halls of MIT. Living in the basement, William Barton Rogers and the enslaved people his family owned searching for Nelly? Because only a student ID can unthug the black man. Put it on a slingshot, actual cannonball because iron skin too thick to let this come between me and my degree. Now it's dark and you seem to have lost it but you're hopelessly lost yourself. Stranded with a stranger, you creep silently through the trash chute. Aha, in the distance, a small hatch with the light on, hope. You move stealthily toward it but your leg, it's caught in our shit. Gnawing off your leg, quiet, quiet, limping to the hive mind, quiet, quiet. Now, you're at our party sitting inside. A lie, instead of a home. Thank you for listening. This next poem is a call to action. It's a call to action. "The Movement" There's a movement in us. Us beaten, us broken, us kindred once stolen. There is a movement in us. All starved and choked in endless woke. There is a movement in us. Like tears, forcibly held back, allowed to see through the eyes but never able to change their gaze. Finally pushing out of the tear ducts streaming around the plump cheeks of a smiling face of their country. The tears crash into the ground and they cry out, "Lord speak!" "America," He says, "will you join hands "with the tree that grows watered by tears? "Will you be cut by her bark to be healed of your fears? "Will you see power and injustice as sins held to dear? "Will you say to the tree, "Live free and live here?" There's a movement in her. Whether joined at the side or left hanging, left dry. There is a movement in her. All earth and crown, crimson and brown. We are the movement for sure. Tired of mourning, unseen we march to the morning of a dream. There is a move in the heart, there is a move of the mind, there is a move by the spirit. So the only word I can find is move. Move from your pockets with your voices on your feet, the ancestors call to us, move! Thank you.
- Thank you, Corban for your poetry, which I can only follow with the pros of a historian and a lawyer. My name is Malick Ghachem, good evening, everybody. I'm a member of the MIT History Faculty and I'm also a criminal defense lawyer who works and teaches in the area of race and criminal justice. It is profoundly discouraging to consider that who gets to breathe in America in 2020 is a matter of race. We have seen that this is true in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months. And the murder of George Floyd shows that it is also true in relation to our policing practices, which must change in radical ways. Such change will require white Americans and indeed all of us to make sacrifices of the kind we have been generally willing to make in the face of COVID-19 but seem unwilling to make in the face of structural racism. And that is because policing practices are so deeply embedded in our economic organization, in how we think about cities and property, in long standing doctrines of criminal law and procedure, and many other factors too numerous to mention here. If you can muster the fortitude to watch the extended video of the murder of George Floyd, you will see that at the very end well after the police have come onto the scene and done their damage, the team of emergency medical personnel from the fire department arrives to try to save Floyd. I do not know whether overcoming police brutality requires the wholesale abolition of police departments, as some have argued in recent days. But if we had police departments that acted more like fire departments, that is seeking to heal, or to put out fires, rather than to apply force and escalate tension, we would almost certainly be in a better place. This past week, I received an email from Kaija Johnson, who's a junior at the Peabody Institute, which is a music conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. And he wrote me as follows, "It saddens me to see the divide "between the leaders of this country "and their citizens of color continue to grow "as weeks go by. "Each day I grow more afraid of the world we live in, "and more afraid of the people "I believe are supposed to protect me. "I believe there needs to be a change in the system. "I believe the voices of America's black and brown citizens "need to be heard and their messages taken to heart. "I believe it is time for a united front "against the injustices that plague our communities. "Though I know these things are necessary, "I have no clue where to begin." And so he asked me, "With your knowledge of the past "and your knowledge of the present, "what is the most effective way for young people in 2020 "to present a united front and achieve results "as our ancestors did during the Civil Rights Movement?" And so what I wanna do is share with you a modified version of what I wrote back to Kaija. For starters, I urged him to make music that would capture this moment and his feelings about it. Just as Corban has just made some poetry that captures this moment very well and his own feelings about it. I told Kaija that he could help to mobilize people of color to vote in the November elections, and that he could work to make his own institution resemble the kind of country he wants to see. But Kaija was particularly interested in what the past could teach us. And so I told him also that change happens on both small and large scales, and that we don't really understand what happens on the large scale. No historian or sociologist at MIT or elsewhere, has yet developed a scientific model of the intersecting forces that make for something as big as the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1950s and '60s. Some observers of the opening days, weeks, and even months of the French and Haitian revolutions, were aware that they were living through a very unusual time, but none of them could have foreseen the scope of what was to come. And not all of them would have liked what they were going to see. For example, the free people of color who mobilized for political rights at the start of the Haitian Revolution were entirely unaware that their claims would set in motion a process that would lead to the abolition of slavery. A result few of them saw because many of them were themselves slaveholders. The violent white mob that destroyed the property of the British East India Company in Boston Harbor in 1773, was unaware that it was setting in motion the American Revolution, which upset almost every notion of law and order then prevalent in the British Empire. There is no catechism for revolution. Every large scale change is the product of many small changes. Looking back at the French Revolution in the middle of the 19th century, the French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that he saw more continuity than change at the end of it. He would have recognized the American dilemma with racism, which seems to hold constant even when it is said to be changing. But even Tocqueville may have undersold the role of continuity in a revolution. Making an impact almost always involves working in teams. Teamwork means looking for the particular gifts that different individuals bring to the table. It also means learning to rely on others when your own energy and availability begin to fade. A social movement of the kind that Kaija is thinking of almost certainly need something like a business continuity plan. This is arguably what was missing when the Arab spring of 2011 faded into the Arab winter. And finally, I urged Kaija to remember the lessons he learned under the COVID-19 lockdown, so that when residential university life and normal economic activity resume, he could find ways to stand up for these lessons when he encounters others trying to slip back into old habits and patterns as they and we undoubtedly will. We can remember, for example, that people are in fact capable of making great sacrifices and undertaking great risks, but also that the distribution of sacrifice and risk in America is very uneven. How to figure out the right mix of compassion and confrontation that will move others to level the playing field before the next crisis hits is a difficult balancing act, especially so for people of color. But increasingly, it seems that we will need more of an appetite and tolerance for productive confrontation in this new era. And so I told Kaija to cultivate both the skill and the art of that practice. Thank you.
- Thank you, Malick for your remarks. My name is Sandy Alexandre. I am a faculty member in the Literature Section here at MIT. Thank you for being here, I will begin my remarks. There's a quote by Toni Morrison that I realize I trot out almost every time I'm asked to talk at MIT, about a racist incident that has happened in the world, or more locally here on campus. This is the quote, "The function, the very serious function of racism "is distraction. "It keeps you from doing your work, "it keeps you explaining over and over again, "your reason for being. "Somebody says you have no language "and you spend 20 years proving that you do. "Somebody says your head isn't shaped properly "so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. "Somebody says, you have have no art, "so you dredged that up. "Somebody says you have no kingdoms "so you dredge that up. "None of this is necessary, "there will always be one more thing." I can see now why I liked this quote so much and why it worked so well for what I wanted to convey, particularly to students. Which was basically please don't let racism get in the way of what you're here to do. Please don't let it drain the energy and use up the bandwidth you need to study, to take exams and to graduate. Please don't let it get to your head. Please don't let it stunt the growth you are here to experience. I can see how as a teacher I could endorse Morrison's advice to stay focused. But to tell yourself that racism is a distraction is in effect a coping mechanism. If you're black and can say that anti-black racism is a mere distraction, and annoying nuisance, I would venture to say that it's not because it's true, it's because for now, that's what will get you through another day. While I certainly wouldn't want to grudge anyone, including myself, this coping mechanism, this handy mantra that racism is distraction, the past and the present, have proven time and time again, that racism is not merely a thorn in a person's side, it's also a suffocating knee on a person's neck. To graduate from the notion that racism is a distraction is to enter into more advanced knowledge that racism is in fact, also a serial killer. This is not sensationalism, this is not hyperbole, this is what MIT on any ordinary day would call hard data. Because we all know full well, or we at least can very easily find out that racism has killed Fred Hampton, Henry Dumas, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, David Macatee and many more. And this is only a list of those killed from the racism of police brutality because in between distracting and serial killing, wouldn't you know, racism still also finds time for robbing too. It robs you of your peace of mind, of your dignity, your health, your sleep, your sanity, economic opportunities, housing opportunities, educational opportunities and your ability to have recourse to any real justice in the world. Is it any wonder that things have come to a head? Is it any wonder that black people are not so much angry as they have been angered? I don't know who needs to hear this, but please understand that you effectively turn a serial killer into a personal henchman when you see it destroying communities of color, and you sit idly by letting it continue on its killing spree. Please understand that seeking that serial killer on your neighbor for sport, or simply because you can, will come back to bite you. Indeed, as the past few days have made crystal clear, racism is everybody's problem. So let's not blame the victims of racism for saying, "Enough is enough." Let's blame racism for being so distracting that it deprioritized a whole global pandemic, the gall. Let's blame racism for being so flagrantly murderous that it has absolutely no qualms about being caught on camera. For far too long, many of us have been bearing witness to racisms, crimes and for even longer than that, many of us have been feeling the brunt of its rampage all over the backs and necks of our communities. I don't know who needs to hear this question, but were you there when racism serial killed black people? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when racism serial killed black people? And if you were, then what did you do? So yes, let us mourn the murder of black people but let us also not allow racism to pigeonhole us as perpetual mourners to its perpetual atrocities. And the only way to do that is to stop it in its tracks by supporting people and organizations that affirm the full range, indeed the full breath of black lives, and by under nourishing and starving white supremacy and its minions. That's the way we fight, that's the way we win. And in the meantime, to students and community members who are members of these persistently besieged communities, please turn to the people who love you, and who help you remember to breathe, to take a breather, because they actually see you and wish you well. Their love of you matters, their love means the world. They're cheering you on and their loving up on you means that the future we want might actually be not only possible, but also sustainable. Please know that I see you, I love you and that I'm cheering you on too. Thank you.
- Thank you, Sandy for those powerful words. My name is Ramona Allen and I'm the Vice President for Human Resources at MIT. For some of us, we are at a familiar crossroads. Familiar because as a person of color, violence has impacted our experiences and our family histories in this country since its inception. Like a virus, racism mutates and changes, but leads to a national sickness marked by widespread economic, political and social inequalities. As a child growing up in segregated Boston, I had eggs thrown at me. My school bus was regularly stoned and shot at, I had no choice but to keep moving. So these traumas were never really addressed. But these are collective, deep seated historical traumas that are now manifesting on the streets. It's exhausting to be a person of color in this country and quite frankly, we're tired. I'm tired of imagining my husband, family and friends, people who look like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, facing a criminal legal system that does not recognize their fundamental worth in humanity. I'm deeply disheartened and disappointed by the ways in which lives of people of color have been devalued over and over again. This is quite a heavy burden to bear. Black men, women and trans lives matter and this shouldn't have to be a point of discussion. Fortunately, we convene today as members of a community of teaching, learning and innovation. I draw strength from knowing that at MIT, we continue to be committed to educating students in ways that will serve the nation and the world. Watching commencement just a few days ago warmed my heart. Left me feeling encouraged and inspired. I'm inspired by our staff and our faculty, who in countless ways demonstrate their brilliance, thoughtfulness and kindness, you just heard that from Sandy and Malick and the other students that were here, I'm counting on you all, my expectations for this community are extremely high. We have the best and the brightest minds here. So we need to lead the country from Cambridge, the way we do in every other way that makes MIT a place of excellence. Innovation, imagination and creativity are part of our DNA. And we must use these strengths to be part of envisioning new ways to be together as community. At this particular crossroads, we must take action and now, no more waiting. Educate yourself, raise awareness, sign petitions, donate to build funds, support our activists, protest, vote. We need all people involved, not just people of color, but all people to fight for change. If you are experiencing a new level of consciousness, just embrace it, because we need you. We need changes in laws, behaviors and hiring practices. We need to create greater opportunity for people from marginalized communities to access education. And finally, we need to hold each other accountable for that change. Ask your peers what they're doing to enact change. We must harness the strengths of our diverse campus community, and in the spirit of our mission statement, "Bring knowledge to bear," on one of the world's greatest challenges by working together. Let's lead the way, MIT, we're calling on you to do that, and all of the members of this community to step up and let's get this done. Thank you.
- Thank you, Ramona. Good evening, I'm Chevy Cleaves, the Chief Diversity Inclusion Officer for MIT Lincoln Laboratory. James Baldwin said, "It is certain in any case "that ignorance allied with power "is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." Like many of you, the last two weeks have been two of my most difficult in a long time and it's not over. While George Floyd's senseless death is one of a half dozen tragedies in the last two weeks alone that had been captured on the national stage, we know that other tragic events frequently occur away from the national spotlight, but are actually centerstage in most of our lives. I appreciate the opportunity to join with you today to share some of my thoughts. I spent over three decades either preparing to serve or actually serving my nation, 25 years on active duty, three years as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service, and four years before all of that, preparing as a student at the Air Force Academy. That service was and is meant to purchase for all citizens, not just some of them. The opportunity to realize, embrace and extend our highest ideals. However, it is within an incredible, ever deepening and pervasive sense of sadness, that I'm continually forced to acknowledge that far too many everyday Americans and leaders do not fully understand what it means to be 'exceptional'. And history will in fact judge what has become normalized behavior as anything but. Even worse, the sacrifice that established and now sustains us is cheapened by the message that our constitution and our institutions are for some citizens, and not all. As a result, like many others, I have feared for my family, those who look like us and for the community of those Americans who understand the meaning and possibility of our aspirations. Alexis de Tocqueville noted that the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults. I truly hope so. When I walked out of the Pentagon on 9/11, the world had forever changed. Many of our divides, were already beginning to be pushed aside, however, temporarily, in order to focus on a common external threat. Those divides soon returned, opposing a common vision for our future. I do hope that the next stage for all of us here and around the country, is that this time, we can commit to facing this common internal threat in a way that brings sustained change. Thank you.
- Hello all. I wish I was before you on better terms, but this is for my community. I will be sharing a poem with you called "Our Protectors TM". This one isn't about me and it's not about my family issues, it's not about my PTSD, it's not about my pain, though they'd all be fitting for an occasion such as this. I started with that to make it very clear that I wrote my last angry poem a long time ago. And I wrote my last scared poem even longer before that. So that's what you came for, that's why we writers sell books. But this is for us. Because they only seem to talk business around here. But this is my business, so listen close. I'm in the business of black joy, I'm in the business of black love and most of all, I'm in the business of black life. And we won't stop until we get what's ours. So no, this is for the ones that have always been good at protecting us, my brothers and my sisters, which we naturally love to see. Your laughter, oh, so thunderous reminds me of bellowing winds and dripping raindrops and the smell of freshness that comes only with the calm after the storm. Your voices having been warning signs before lightning struck and your smiles giving the sun permission to shine again, wrapping us up in a warm embrace. Whispering that everything is not okay. But with them at least we'd be safe. Y'all are like the welcome mat behind a door jammed shut, ready and also willing, but not everyone is meant to use you. Y'all are like the perfect mix of the truth that we want to hear and the truth that we need to hear always strapped with the perfect gif. Over and over and over again, we're reminded of how your existence is a perfect gift. And y'all know us better than we know ourselves. See us how we see ourselves, correct our vision, correct each other, growing together intentionally. Y'all be sounding like you've been around for a long time. Like you've lived a lot of lives, like you've seen some stuff and still live each day like you could lose it all. Knowing that we never lose each other though because there's something prophetic about this linkage. So no matter how hard we try, no one is left alone and no matter how often or how much we cry, joy always comes in the morning. And no matter how far we travel, we still trust each other with our lives. Yes, trust because our protectors they're not these bandwagon fans. They're not a rent-a-cop or a bad apple. No, they're more than just the boys and girls next door. No, they're more than we could have ever asked for. But this isn't about just me and how I feel, this is about how I couldn't help myself when I think of the love that I feel daily from this community because y'all aren't like family, you are. Y'all aren't like the funniest people I've ever met before, you are. Y'all aren't like my favorite people in the world, you are. And just as much as you're my protector, I am yours. And the protection of folks like us is serious business. Trademark type serious, and I'm happy to be in business with you all. Thank you.
- Thank you so much AudreyRose for your poignant words. Hi, my name is Kelvin Green II. I'm not without words, but the words that come to mind are not my own, yet all mine. If there's one thing I've learned in fighting with a violent reality of racism in this country, it is that we cannot do it alone. To me, this means we must tap into the ancestors and their wisdom. They are those that thought of us here and now. Who knew we would have questions, who knew we would be outraged and then decided to write so that we could read. The word vigil comes from the Latin, vigilia meaning wakefulness. And where I'm from, a good sermon inspires a right now sense of wakefulness. I'm no preacher, but ancestor Toni Morrison wrote a sermon for us, a sermon that demands nothing of us, but that the only grace we can have is the grace we can imagine. That if we cannot see it, we cannot have it. Baby Suggs is a now dead elderly black woman and Toni Morrison's beloved. Among many other things, she was a preacher for the children, men and women in her community. Hear me now, black people. "Here," she said, "in this here place we flesh. "Flesh that weeps, laughs, "flesh that dances on bare feet and grass. "Love it, love it hard. "Yonder, they do not love your flesh, they despise it. "They don't love your eyes, they just as soon pick them out. "No more do they love the skin on your back, "yonder, they flay it. "And oh my people, they do not love your hands. "Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. "Love your hands, love them, raise them up and kiss them, "touch others with them, pat them together, "stroke them on your face. "Because they don't love that either. "You got to love it, you. "And know they ain't in love with your mouth. "Yonder, out there, they will see it broken "and break it again. "What you say out of it, they will not heed, "what you scream from it, they do not hear, "what you put into it to nourish your body, "they will snatch away and give you leavens instead. "No, they don't love your mouth, you got to love it. "This is flesh I'm talking about here, "flesh that needs to be loved, "feet that need to rest and to dance, "backs that needs support, shoulders that need arms, "strong arms, I'm telling you. "And oh my people out yonder, hear me. "They do not love your neck on Newston Street. "So love your neck, put a hand on it, "grace it, stroke it and hold it up "and all your inside parts "that they just assume slop for hogs, "you got to love them. "The dark, dark liver, love it, love it "and the beat and beating heart, love that too, "more than eyes or feet, more than lungs "that have yet to draw free air, "more than your life holding womb "and your life giving private parts, hear me now. "Love your heart, for this is the price." Thank you.
- Thank you Kelvin for those powerful words. Greetings MIT family. My name is Kendyll Hicks and I'm an outgoing BSU co-chair. For the past week, we have watched again and again, the slow and methodical disregard for a black man's life. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, Officer Derrick Shovin fearlessly stared into a camera and continued to dig his knee into George Floyd's throat. George lost consciousness, the officer heard cries saying, "You are killing him," and he continued to dig his knee into George Floyd's throat. But this isn't about George Floyd, this is about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Deon Johnson, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Atatiana Jefferson, Trayvon Martin and so, so many more. My heart has ached and my throat has tangled for too long for the families whose black mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, some whose names we know and countless others whose we don't. We're treated as problems instead of people whose bodies were battered by those who were sworn to protect them, who fell victim to a system that has masterminded the murder of a people. We are gathered here to mourn those precious lives lost. In mourning, I fear for my family, my friends, loved ones and myself who wake up in a country where it has always been open season on black bodies and who look in the mirror and think, "Today, being black could be my death sentence." But where do our tears go? When will our countries coddling white killers? When will our institutions begin to truly feel our pain and inherit our tears? When will they realize that not only are we fighting for justice for fair and humane treatment, but we are also fighting for our lives. We are tired of thoughts and prayers. With that in mind, MIT administration, I would like to ask you, do you really care about your black students, faculty and staff if you're not willing to use your power and resources to protect us? When COVID-19 arrived, MIT sprung into action making masks, ventilators, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals. Where is that ambition for the public health crisis for which we gather right now? When vicious immigration policies threatened the safety and protection of students, MIT urged the powers that be to make a change. You've proved you can do something but today you're missing in action and as so many have noticed, to acknowledge and be informed without concrete effort is to be complicit and to support the police terror that's occurring. Stand with us, publicly demand the accountability of all officers involved, publicly support the demonstrations and broader black liberation efforts happening across the country. Do something, include us in your mandate, accept this problem as your own because we will never achieve an equitable and just community on campus if our humanity is being disregarded everywhere else. So how do we honor lives last? We must listen, learn, educate, speak up, vote, donate, empathize, love and fight because we are the ones we have been waiting for. Thank you.
- Thank you so much for that Kendyll and everyone else for all that you've offered. My name is Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor, I'm a dual degree student between the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Sloan. When it comes to police brutality and racial injustice in the U.S., for me this experience, this conversation and these moments are particularly personal. It's important to understand that for all black people in the U.S., these moments often trigger things buried levels deep beneath the surface. For the sake of our communities, for the broader community, for the collective struggle, for black liberation, many of us charged ourselves with the task of being vulnerable, and doing the spiritual, emotional and physical labor of excavating these protected components of our character, our identity and our experience for something greater. It's critical that we all understand the burden of this labor, while simultaneously acknowledging that no one, not even myself as a fellow black person can understand and know what another is holding and what work was required to bring that burden to bear on these platforms in such a public way, and to have many of the discussions we're having today. For me, understanding George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other fates, began at home. As a youth, growing up in low-income communities, in government subsidized housing, in neighborhoods that were under resourced and over policed, I watched every male in my household, which included my two older brothers and my dad, by the time I had turned 18, I saw each of them taken away in handcuffs and imprisoned for various periods of time. Today, one in three black men nationally are incarcerated at a point in their lives. In my life as a youth, the statistic I knew was three out of four, with a high likelihood that it'd be four of four, by the end of my life. If not arrested and incarcerated at least stopped unjustly, and the worst, murdered under legal sanction. I understand that this issue has many sides, has political nuances, has further details and a larger picture. And while that is true, it also isn't. None of those factors changed the fact that for me by 18, my biggest fear in life involved encounters with the police. I've just pushed myself academically, intellectually, in everywhere. In other realities, my peers in different environments pushed themselves out of a passion for tinkering with electronics or aspirations of traveling through space or making art that inspires, not for me. I wanted to remain free and safe from what plagued my community. I didn't wanna end up in the predicament each role model I had growing up fell into and wanted to understand as a society of people like me cannot grow up, but not just this fear, but this fate. Today I'm here in front of you sharing my story but also imploring us all to understand that today before policies change, our mentality must, our approach must, our collective commitment to the liberation of black people must. We have to be ready to face the most difficult challenges. James Baldwin says, "Not everything faced can be changed, "but nothing can be changed until it's faced." We have to ask ourselves, are we ready to hold ourselves to this task? Are we all ready to do our individual and collective parts? I'm more hopeful about this than I have ever been but I'm still worried because the time is now and we need that support now. There are black lives being lost in these streets and the decisions each of us make over the next few days may impact the fate of our world for the next few generations. What will you do today?
- Hi, my name is Jaleesa Trapp and I am a PhD student in the media lab with the Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group. I was asked to give a reflection and I think that reflecting is something that we do a lot. And so instead, I think I want to do a call to action. Because I'm black and I reflect on that every day. So, I want you to think about if it feels awkward when you're checking in on black people in your research group on your staff, why does that feel awkward? Is that the only time that you check in with them? Do your students feel comfortable at a place like MIT? Do we acknowledge the history of MIT? Do we acknowledge that we sit on the land of the Massachusetts that was stolen from them? Do we acknowledge that MIT was created because of the slave economy? Why is it that when there's a high profile black death, and I say high profile, because this happens all the time that you have to ask where you should donate? Are you actively looking for black people to support that do this work all the time? Black educators, black healthcare professionals, black activists that are out on the street? What are you doing to educate yourself every day and not just when something happens? So that's my call to action today, I want you to think about what it is that you're doing every day. When I walk into my lab, are you looking at me like I don't belong there? When I'm on campus late at night and I'm leaving, and there's a bunch of other people, are you looking at me funny? Think about how you're interacting with people every day. We can't change anything at a higher level if we don't change things at the level that we're at.
- Thank you Jaleesa. My name is Heather Konar, I am the Communications Officer in the office of Graduate Education. And I am here this evening with my brother Steve. The nurse on the frontlines of the COVID epidemic and his wife Julie who are going to be helping me sing this song today. This is "Cry No More" by Rhiannon Giddens. ♪ First they stole our bodies ♪ ♪ Then they stole our sons ♪ ♪ Then they stole our gods ♪ ♪ And gave us new ones ♪ ♪ Then they stole our beauty ♪ ♪ Comfort in our skin ♪ ♪ Then they gave us duties ♪ ♪ And then they gave us sin ♪ ♪ Then came generations ♪ ♪ That helped to build this land ♪ ♪ The bedrock of the nation ♪ ♪ Was laid with these brown hands ♪ ♪ The solace of a people ♪ ♪ Was found with that new god ♪ ♪ And many peaceful steeples ♪ ♪ Would guide the road we trod ♪ ♪ And then they stole our solace ♪ ♪ And then they stole our peace ♪ ♪ With countless acts of malice ♪ ♪ And hatred without cease ♪ ♪ A foul and dirty river ♪ ♪ Runs through this sacred land ♪ ♪ With every act of terror ♪ ♪ They tell us where we stand ♪ ♪ Five hundred years of poison ♪ ♪ Five hundred years of grief ♪ ♪ Five hundred years of reasons ♪ ♪ To weep with disbelief ♪ ♪ Our legacy is mighty ♪ ♪ We can't carry this alone ♪ ♪ You have to help us fight it ♪ ♪ And together we'll be home ♪ ♪ And together we'll be home ♪ ♪ And together we'll be home ♪
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